A good friend of mine has developed a pretty remarkable and novel app for children and adults needing help learning to communicate and speak. She created this app after 20 years as a speech-language pathologist in private practice. Based on the success of the app within her own practice and moderate use in school systems and practices around the world, she is making a move to commercialize the app through a startup she has founded.
I am completely taken by her motivation to do this. She is driven by the potential of moving her field forward and by helping people with significant speech issues learn to communicate. She is not really motivated by money or a big exit one day. She already has a very successful practice and a nice lifestyle. She is truly motivated by something deeper and less easy to enunciate – passion. She recognizes that she can scale the outreach of this incredible tool if she can reach more people by growing. So, she is starting a software company to commercialize the app.
Founding and growing a software company based on a disruptive technology is not quite the same as growing a private clinical practice, so I have pitched in to consult on the business side of things. I am helping in all of the usual entrepreneurial areas: business plan, structure, capitalization, team construction, road map, revenue plan, etc. I am also helping her prepare herself for this next adventure. When I work with people interested in entrepreneurship and starting a technology company, I always try to understand the root and depth of their passion and drive. It is easy to think of the ‘start’ as a one time event but what most early-stage entrepreneurs don’t realize is there are continuous starts throughout the growth of a successful business. In fact, with every evolution of the business, there is a new start. A founder’s passion has to sustain well beyond the first start. It has to sustain through all of the starts – and all of the failed starts.
As I am preparing her for basically having a new kid at 45 and starting from scratch, she turns the tables: “What keeps your passion sustained?” Quick on my feet, inspiring, and eloquent as ever, I replied: “Doing cool shit, I reckon.”
After a few days of thinking about that question, I tried to tighten up my response a bit, figuring there was a more CEO-y answer.
I founded Greensea in 2006 after an early career as a diver, an ROV technician, and an engineer. Based on the mission statement: “…to create technology that improves the relationship between operator and machine and to make the work they do together more efficient and productive…”, we began developing an open architecture software framework to create commonality in the subsea industry and advance a community of developers, explorers, and workers. A 10 year technical roadmap before commercial launch, 4 years into a commercial launch, 3 years of aggressive growth, 2 economic recessions, 1 pandemic, 40 employees, and three locations later – is there still passion? Yeah, there is. A fucking ton of it.
My first attempt at writing this blog post read like something from the entrepreneur self-help aisle at a bookstore. I tried to provide eloquence and sophistication and wisdom to my earlier explanation of why I am still passionate about my company. Maybe I am just not meant for eloquence and sophistication because the honest and most authentic answer to what drives my passion is simple: “We do cool shit.”
I love making robots easier to work with and I love working with people who like doing the same thing. I like making operators’ jobs easier and I like accelerating technology developers. I have had a blast building a community based on open architecture and there is no end in sight.
An ROV is a relatively humble machine, a collection of disparate technologies and components mounted onto a mobile waterproof power supply. It can do a lot, but typically it doesn’t, the operator does. But we are changing that. We are making ROVs smarter, better, and more capable. We started off by focusing on integrating all of the disparate technologies into a single platform, then we brought in autonomy to create a smarter vehicle, next we redefined the communications operators and pilots would have with their ROV. Now, we are developing a technology that gives us the ability to operate that ROV from anywhere in the world through a low-bandwidth data link.
We have evolved ROV operations and we have done it through an open architecture platform called OPENSEA. In the process, we have fielded more than 1200 systems and have built a community of revolutionary doers – folks who just move the f@$%ing ball. Now, we are evolving what we have developed and working with collaborators all over the industry to solve new challenges and create new capabilities.
This is what sustains my passion through the successes, the failures, the easy days, and the hard days. My most eloquent advice to any entrepreneur starting out is this: Make sure you do cool shit, it will sustain your passion.
For anyone who may be interested in the app referenced above, please go to https://gobridgeapp.com/